Niagara Gazette

September 20, 2013

HAMILTON: Kashaun Bivins and how Democrats and Republicans fold clothes

By Ken Hamilton
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — It is important that we understand why Democrats and Republicans do many things differently. In fact, it can be a lot like folding clothes. In the end, the clothes get folded, but the main difference is in the purposes for which each learned or practiced to fold them.

I noticed that while at the corner laundry the other day where there was a bright, rather talkative high school student, who apparently had taken a job in one of the many local retail-clothing stores. There, Kashaun Bivins learned the art of folding the clothes that frantic shoppers left askew. I knew Kashaun from his elementary school days and engaged him in conversation as I folded my clothes. As we chatted and joked, he watched how I slowly and meticulously folded my tee shirts into tightly compacted units and neatly stacked them into the laundry basket.

“Why you fold your clothes that way?” he spurted. “That’s not how you fold T-shirts,” and then he grabbed one and folded it very neatly, albeit loosely, in no time at all, and doing so three-to-four times faster than I had folded the previous one. I asked him to fold another, and he did so, proudly demonstrating his training.

After his instruction, I practiced on a T-shirt and found it to be indeed faster. As I folded a second T-shirt, I begin to think deeply on why I still folded my clothes in the way that I had folded them for more than 40 years. Then the answer hit me; and so did many other thoughts related to the young man’s question.

“I know why I fold them this way, and why you fold yours the way that you do,” I said to him. “You learned to fold clothes that you placed on shelves or in bins. But in the Navy, I learned to fold clothes to best fit into a seabag, or in a small locker, so that they’ll come out with very few wrinkles. You fold clothes so that you can always easily go to them, but I fold clothes in a way that I can hurriedly pack them and easily go with me. Your focus is on staying where you are, and I focus on moving around.”

Kashaun understood. This later became clear to me when I ran into his aunt and told her of my encounter in the laundry. She told me that she was surprised to find that when he recently packed her suitcase for a trip out of town, he did so in “a military fashion!”

His aunt’s fiancé was also a military man, but Kashaun never questioned why the fiancé folded as he did. But he did question me, and he situationally changed the way that he did things because of a conversation that led to understanding.

There was an understanding on my behalf, too; one of introspection — of looking closely at one’s inner thoughts to find reasoning in what one does.

One thing in life often lends itself to many other areas in life, and I thought about the differences in why Democrats prefer things done in a certain way that is different from how Republicans prefer them.

While I have long said that on the municipal level there is no difference between how a Democrat or a Republican repairs a pothole — and that is probably true — there are likely differences in which potholes they repair first, and why.

Both parties care about people. Democrats are more likely to pay closer attention to the potholes where the underprivileged or elderly people live. Republicans are more apt to first concentrate on the roads where those same people are most likely to drive the most miles upon while shopping or going to the doctor. Those latter roads generate the most tax base to help pay for the services for those same underprivileged people, including repairing their potholes.

But in the end, all of the roads may have their potholes filled, the difference being in what one might want to accomplish first. But in order to best serve the purposes of the public, the two groups must have the conversation of understanding; and like Kashaun, situationally changing their method to fit the varying situations.

By the way, because of understanding Kashaun’s situationally purposeful folding, I have been practicing folding my clothes in the way that the he taught me.

Contact Ken Hamilton at